Wednesday, November 30

For The Love Of Blogging...

I first started blogging back in October 2008. It was the year that I lost my step-dad, started working at Jamie's Italian and began experimenting with crafting. I think I read an article on the awesome Twinkie Chan and it opened up a whole new world. Blogging and crafting has become my thing, my hobby, a part of who I am. Sometimes I lean more towards one than the other and a few times I've abstained from blogging all together or my crafting has faltered almost to a stop. I enjoy them both though and therefore I always come back to them.

Blogging is so much bigger in the online community now than it was when I first started. Beauty and fashion bloggers grace the pages of well-known magazines. Craft magazines have sprung up out of nowhere (believe me Mollie Makes & Oh Comely were not about in 2008!), PR companies have built relationships with bloggers, magazines run articles on how to boost your online sales and how to become a successful blog author. 
Some bloggers offer advice on how to blog and others point out the pitfalls of bad blogging etiquette. It's difficult to recall why I started blogging in the first place and to define what my blog is. Is it a diary? A way to stay in touch with people on the other side of the world? Somewhere to share images that I like? Somewhere to display my talent? A place to meet other like-minded individuals? Somewhere to share ideas?

I don't think I've ever had a clear idea of what I wanted my blog to be. At first it merely went hand-in-hand with crafting and by reading other blogs I found other people who had similar interests. At some point I became intrigued by the statistical aspect of it and compared myself to other blogs. Perhaps it would be right to say that I went as far as mimicking other blogs. I think I emulated them to see if I could achieve the same level of success, after all, it's fairly natural to want to compete, to be the best.

For the last couple of months my blog has confounded me somewhat. I've been blogging more often but at times that has left me with virtually nothing to say. I have started pushing myself to get my camera out more though and so my photography has begun to improve, something I may not have pursued without my blog. 

Now I'm at another new chapter in my life. I leave Jamie's Italian this Sunday. I'm an older, (possibly wiser!), different person to whom I was when I first began this journey. I am more confident than I was then,  I dress differently, I look different, I have an amazing partner who has a child, I am an aunt and I have fallen in love with my camera. 
Whatever my blog is now, it has become, and will continue to be, a reflection of me. I don't need to be pigeon-holed or to compete with myself. This is my journey and it is a privilege and a joy to share it with you.

Caz xxx

Hand In Hand

I wanted to share this piece of art work with you today. Entitled Hand In Hand it's a pen & ink drawing by my step-dad, Simon, whose birthday it would have been today.

Wasn't he talented? He did a lot of pen & ink mainly of dragons and fairies.  I love this drawing in particular as it reminds me of Escher.

He loved fantasy art, nature, and Native American Indians. And us!

Simon, I miss you xxx

Tuesday, November 29

Quality Street

This beautiful little Quality Street tin houses my button stash. I wish I had some more of these tins, they're so perfect for storage & are incredibly hardy.

They make me think of cake and Sundays from my childhood as well as being synonymous with Christmas... do they bring back memories for you? Do you use them as storage too? My mum used to bake most weekends and at Sunday teatime out would come the Quality Street or Roses tin with a delicious sponge cake inside... Mmmmm!

I've seen all the chocolate boxes appearing in shops for Christmas already it's just a shame they no longer come in these beautiful tins!

Hugs, Caz x
Monday, November 28

Five Images

All of these shots were taken out and about in Oxford. The monster graffiti is near my bus stop & makes me smile each time I see it.

Hugs, Caz x
Sunday, November 27

Sunday Shopping

Isn't this fella absolutely awesome?!

He was on the Etsy front page and obviously caught my attention! He is hand drawn by James Ward and you can buy him from James' shop Jimbobart which is full of absolutely awesome goodies including plates, mugs, teapots, cake stands and illustrations. best of all he is based here in the UK, in London.

Go and check out his incredible animals in underpants!

hugs, Caz x
Saturday, November 26

Know Your Coffees

This gorgeous print is by Kate Moore and is available here. I don't know about you but I'm an Espresso girl myself.

Hugs, Caz x
Friday, November 25

The Money Saving List

1. Try cleaning with Bicarbonate of Soda, lemons and good old vinegar. They're all free of unnecessary chemicals and are items you're likely to already have in your house.

2. If you shop somewhere regularly and they offer a loyalty/rewards card then it's worth getting it. You usually incur points for every pound you spend and you'll get money off vouchers and loyalty offers.

3. Join your local library. Who can say no to free books, CDs and DVDs? A lot of libraries are struggling to stay open so you'll be doing yourself and your community a favour by using one.

4. Buy secondhand. You really can get good quality clothing and homeware through charity shops and Ebay. If you're worried about buying second hand clothing make sure you check the quality carefully. Check the seams and for any stains that may not come out. 

5. If you do have a carrier bag stash then make sure you reuse them. take them with you when you go shopping. Many shops charge you for carrier bags now.

6. Bulk up meals with rice, lentils and pasta. These are cheap staple items that go along way.

7. If you have a garden or patio try collecting rain water to use to water your plants with. And try growing your own herbs and salad leaves!

8. If you're a proud mum to a wee one try using cloth nappies instead of disposable ones.

9. Join Freecycle. It's a great way to get furniture, white goods and stuff for children for free.

10. Check out sites such as Groupon for 2 for 1 deals at your favourite local restaurants.

I hope that some of these are helpful to you... I'll do another ten at some point so keep your eyes open!

Hugs, Caz x

Thursday, November 24

Textile Jewellery


This piece is a lasso style necklace that I made a couple of years ago. It's definitely a very unusual statement piece! I made it using wool, felt, crystal chips and ribbon. I think perhaps I was more adventurous then than I am now?
Wednesday, November 23

Bargain Bounty!

I popped into the British Heart Foundation shop yesterday & picked this little lot up for £11! Bargain!
The Water Babies was one of my favourite films when I was a child but I've never read the book. 
An illustrated version of The Twits by Roald Dahl? Yes please!
The RSPB book of birds is lovely and will come in very useful as I can now practise drawing birds realistically.
Cider With Rosie I read at school and remember really enjoying it so when I spotted this copy for £1 I couldn't leave it sat on the shelf!
The McCalls Sewing book literally has everything you need to know in it! Plus some rather adorable illustrations which of course I'm going to have a go at drawing myself. 
Last but not least is the General Science book first printed in 1937 and reprinted in 1938. I'm fairly certain that a few of the scientific theories in here are now deemed incorrect but it has some beautiful illustrations in it so I thought it was worth it's £3 price tag. It even has exam questions in the back!

The carrot illustration I've done from the General Science book. I'm sure when they printed it over 70 years ago this isn't quite what they had in mind but at least I'm still learning something!

Hugs, Caz x

PS. If you're on the hunt for Christmas decorations the British Heart Foundation shops are selling some quite adorable (new) ornaments this year!

Tuesday, November 22

Salvaged Roses Necklace

I made this necklace this evening. I named it Salvaged Roses because the main piece is actually a broken cabochon that I've had lying around for ages. It is so pretty I wanted to salvage it somehow & this evening I figured out what I was going to do with it! I have sewn & glued it onto five layers of felt so the backing is very sturdy. Then I've simply slipped it onto a silver ball chain. What do you think?

Frugal Beauty

Do you, like me, have a large collection of beauty products? I spend approximately £80 every month on toiletries. According to Google in the UK most women spend between £50-100 each month. I have to confess that I almost have a heart attack when I'm doing my shopping in Boots & the cashier cheerfully says "That'll be £83.72 then please." I finally got a Boots Advantage card a few months back which has come in handy upon occasion. Need some Iburofen but you're completely broke? Use the points on your Advantage card, yay! Also they send you out vouchers which are obviously useful. However I feel that I really need to bring that average monthly spend back down.

I'm a sucker for a deal as much as the next person (read: woman) so sometimes I end up buying more than I intended. Buy one Body Wash & get the second half price? Awesome! Except.. why am I buying Body Wash in the first place? What's wrong with good old fashioned soap? It costs less, lasts longer & is naturally    antibactericidal to boot. Basically soap just isn't fashionable! Body wash, bubble bath, shower gel, make-up remover, cleansers & toners are. The honest truth is that these overpriced & over packaged products just aren't all necessary. 

I know that some women choose to spend their money on beauty products as their luxury. I've had my moments of coveting beautifully packaged and smelling products but I can't afford them. For me money is tight and I've set myself on a path to living a more sustainable lifestyle so spending money on toiletries is something that I need to think about.

Going back to basics doesn't have to mean completely missing out on luxury though.The variety of beautiful handmade soaps you can get these days is astounding. I'll wait until my three (yep, three!) bottles of shower gels & creams run out and then I'll replace them with soap. I'm already out of bubble bath so I'm now using sea salt and essential oils such as lavender or lemongrass. Yes these can be expensive but as you only need to add a couple of drops to running water they last for ages.

I have a few other tricks up my sleeve for my product declutter including using body oil as moisturiser (it lasts forever and leaves your skin silky and soft) and make-up remover and a flannel instead of disposable wipes. 

How about you? Are you a Luxury Beauty Junkie, a Green Bathing Queen or somewhere in between like me?
Monday, November 21

A Collection

I'm trying to get in to the habit of using my camera more. These shots are of the nature collection I have by the bed in my room. Shells, crystals and a conker... the one in Tom's room has fir cones and feathers.

I have previously mentioned that I want to use more of my own photographs on my blog and I am thinking of making it a goal for the New Year. Have you started thinking of New Year goals yet? I've already come up with a few, I'll be posting about them in December.

Using other peoples photographs on your blog is always a grey area. I think that most people are OK with it as long as you link back to them which is something I always try to do. However there are some out there who request that you ask permission first and others who do not want you to reproduce their work, both of these positions are fair enough! People often use photographs and don't credit them at all which is  thoughtless. Since the subject of using photos has become a bit of a minefield & because I want to push myself artistically I have therefore reached the conclusion that using more and more of my own photographs is important to me and my integrity. 

How about you? Has blogging made you a better photographer?

Hugs, Caz x

Sunday, November 20

A Guide To Dining In Oxford...

*Al Andalus, Tapas Bar, Little Clarendon Street, Jericho*

This Tapas bar is a real favourite of mine. My friends from work & I go here quite a lot! The food is delicious, with a huge choice of meats, cheese, and fish. It's unpretentious, has a really nice garden area at the back & occasionally has live Flamenco! It's not the best place to go if you're vegetarian but they are very accomodating if you have food allergies.

*Pierre Victoire, Little Clarendon Street, Jericho*

This family run French restaurant is another real favourite of ours. The food here is always fantastic and the service is great. It gets very busy so it is advisable to book, however if you do chance it, they'll give you a waiting time if there are no free tables & are more than happy for you to get a drink elsewhere during that time.

*The Oxford Retreat, Hythe Bridge Street*

I've included the Retreat for three reasons. Firstly, they serve great food and their dining area is lovely.
Secondly, if you're hungry at 1.30am they stay open until 3am on Friday & Saturday nights and serve pizza after midnight!
Which leads to the third reason... we are there virtually every Friday and Saturday night after work! It's perfect for us because we don't finish till gone midnight and actually having somewhere we can go, grab a pint, and share pizza after work is fantastic.

*The Mission, St. Michaels Street and The High Street*

 If you're hungry and want good food on the go then this is my recommendation! They make the most amazing Burritos. My favourite is the Chicken Fajita Burrito, Tom's is the Vegetarian Burrito. Awesome.

*Cafe Coco, Hythe Bridge Street/Park End and Cowley Road*

These guys serve a great Full English Breakfast. At the Cowley Road restaurant the pizza's are great. For some reason at the City Centre restaurant they aren't so good, but the Chorizo & Mushroom salad is delicious. The service in both isn't so great but if you're after somewhere casual to get Brunch then they're pretty good.

*Mario's, Cowley Road*

We went here on our anniversary. It really feels like a proper Italian restaurant, it's a great place to people watch and the pizza's are amazing.

Have you got a favourite eaterie in Oxford? If so please share!

Keep an eye out for more in the My Oxford series,

Hugs, Caz x

Saturday, November 19

The Pink Post

Click the numbers below to link to the source.
1, 2, 3, 4

Final picture is Oscar my new owl! Tom bought him today for me as a surprise present! 

All Change!

It's all change on the job front for me! I handed my notice in on Thursday at work as I've interviewed for and been offered an Assistant Manager position in a different restaurant. I'm very excited! I'll wait until nearer the time to share more with you but suffice to say it's a great opportunity. I am however very sad at the thought of leaving somewhere that I've been at for so long and not being able to work with all my friends anymore. Like I said though it's a fabulous chance to do something new and I'm really looking forward to a new challenge!
Thursday, November 17

Mixed Media Art #2

I absolutely love mixed media art so thought it was time I shared some more with you. These artists all sell on Etsy so if you click their name it'll take you to their shop. Sarah Ogren also makes the most beautiful jewellery.

1 & 2 Bobbi Lewin

Hugs, Charis